Coming into their own Little-known films leave a big impression at

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Coming into their own Little-known films leave a big impression at
M2
SPOTLIGHT
THE MAGAZINE
Coming into their own
India Abroad May 30, 2014
Filmmakers, actors and the organizers pose
for a group photograph at the New York
Indian Film Festival closing gala, May 10.
he five-day New York Indian Film Festival —
May 5 through May 10 — organized by the
Indo-American Arts Council, saw some fierce
competition as the independent jury had to
weigh several extremely well made gems
from India and other countries.
The 14th edition of the festival will be remembered for
the triumph of new directors, who shot past big names like
Anurag Kashyap (Ugly), Buddhadeb
Dasgupta (Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa
(Sniffer)) and Aparna Sen (Goynar
Baksho).
The top awards went to Nagraj
Manjule, Fandry (best director), Geethu
Mohandas, Liar’s Dice (best picture),
Naseeruddin Shah (best actor, The
Coffin Maker), Geetanjali Thapa (best
actress, Liar’s Dice), Gulabi Gang (best
documentary) and Blouse (best short)
A semi autobiographical film in
Marathi about the continuing caste discrimination in India, Fandry is an
engaging narrative with flashes of
humor.
It centers around an ‘untouchable’ or
Dalit boy and his love for a girl from a
higher caste.
On the surface, it may look like a conventional love story, however, it is anything but a masala film.
The Hollywood Reporter called it ‘a
film made with anger and indignation at
India’s caste system.’
Manjule, who received a warm welcome in New York, after the screening of
his film, said the caste system and concomitant exploitation continued to ride
high in India because politicians and
vested interests worked together to keep
A scene from Fandry, which won Nagraj Manjule a best director nod at the festival.
it thus.
“We are thrilled to be able to share this
The film, also featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, was first
film with New York audiences,” Aseem Chhabra, festival
screened at the Mumbai Film Festival this year. It became
director, NYIFF, said. “Fandry is, in my book, perhaps the
the second film to be selected in the competition category
best film made in India in 2013.”
at the Sundance Film Festival after Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli
The Coffin Maker, a story of sudden impending death,
Live, four years ago.
also holds promise for first time filmmaker Veena Bakshi.
A stark, but engrossing film about ‘invisible’ people
Geethu Mohandas’s Liar’s Dice — a grim film about diswhose lives are mercilessly exploited by the powerful vestplaced people and workers with precarious existence in far
ed interest, Liar’s Dice was photographed by Rajiv Ravi,
off parts of India — was well received at the festival.
Mohandas’s husband.
It tells the story of Kamala and her child Manya who
The filmmaker, who began her career as a child artist in
leave their native village in search of her missing husband
Malayalam movies (as Gayathri) and graduated to playing
and meet an unknown army deserter.
T
Little-known films leave a big
impression at the New York
Indian Film Festival, finds
Arthur J Pais
lead roles, took to serious movies over a decade ago.
It was not an overnight decision to get into direction, she
said. The self-taught filmmaker made a short film
Kelkkunnundo (Are You Listening?), which received a
world premiere at the International Film Festival
Rotterdam and was screened at the International Film
Festival of India.
‘That gave me a stepping stone to do something bigger,’
she said in an interview. ‘For independent filmmakers, it is very difficult to
secure funds to make a film. But because
my short film had premiered in
Rotterdam, I was exposed to the Hubert
Bals Fund for Script and Project
Development. The film’s journey started
from there.’
It is imperative, Mohandas said, for
low budget films to have artists who are
razor sharp, follow the director fast and
with enthusiasm. She said the actors in
her film helped her complete the project
in about three weeks.
Geetanjali Thapa is ‘fabulous’ because
‘she is a very unassuming actor,’
Mohandas said. ‘I think she completely
trusts her instincts and turned out to be
a very quiet support for the entire film.’
‘Her chemistry with Nawaz was also
very beautiful. Nawaz is completely a
director’s actor,’ she added. ‘He trusts
the director and asks a lot of questions.
But once you tell him what the feel and
the mood is, he just speaks out. I think
he is a delight to watch.’
Why did she choose such a difficult
terrain — the borderland across Nepal
— to shoot the film?
Mohandas said she found the subject
compelling. It reminded her of people
from Kerala and other regions of India,
who travel thousands of miles to work
under very hostile conditions.
She added her unit had to be careful of landslides and
leopards. ‘But these factors did not deter us.’
Another gem from unusual quarters was the Pakistani
film Zinda Bhaag.
It tells the story of three young men trying to escape the
reality of their everyday lives and succeeding in ways they
had least expected. The directors of the film — Delhi-born
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